December 30, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 16...

The Ray Stevens music video, "Obama Budget Plan", now sits with 1,018,737 on-line views. This is a pick-up of 18,407 views since my last blog entry on Christmas Day. The current totals for "Mr. President - Mr. President" is 419,864. The two music videos, as you can see, have a combined total of nearly 1.5 million views. Ray, like a lot of others in the music industry, typically take the last 2 weeks in the year off and rest up for the following year. 2012 as we all know is an election year...but at some point next month Ray is to release his novelty song tribute collection. Ray will also celebrate a birthday next month, too.

The Ray Stevens fans in and around the state of Florida will get their chance to see him in concert in February. He'll appear in three different locations in Florida during the month of February 2012. On the 21st he'll be at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach. On February 22nd he'll be at The Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida. On February 23rd he'll appear at the King Center in Melbourne, Florida. As of now those are the only concert dates for 2012 but I suspect the appearances for 2012 will increase dramatically as the year goes by. These Florida dates were announced earlier this year.

December 25, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 6...

Merry Christmas!! In my final installment of The 12 Rays of Christmas we have the final four images. Up first is the picture sleeve that accompanied the original version of "Santa Claus Is Watching You". As I remarked in previous blog entries the 1962 original plays out like a children's novelty song...but it did reach the pop charts that year...landing in the Top-50. In the original we hear shades of what the song would later become but the storyline was definitely aimed at children. At first, the song never appeared on any of Ray's albums and was a single-only release for many years. It would eventually be placed on an album in 1970 when Mercury released The Best of Ray Stevens, a look back on some of Ray's recordings for Mercury Records in the early '60s. Later on as Mercury and their affiliate labels began to re-issue a lot of Ray's earliest recordings it would become something of a tradition to see "Santa Claus Is Watching You" appear on any number of Mercury and, or, Polygram compilations. I once got a Christmas card from Ray's fan club back when it was operational and it had a picture of Ray on it (of course) and when you opened it up it had a list of all the reindeer that appear in the 1985 re-recording of the song.

This was one of the many picture sleeves that accompanied Ray's novelty song, "Bridget the Midget", in 1971. A lot of the various picture sleeves accompanied the international release and most of them used a photo of Ray taken, I assume, from the same photo session because most of the pictures show Ray with a cabin or some sort of rural building in the background. In this image, although it doesn't show up well, there's a tree that Ray's standing in front of. I've got another picture sleeve of this single in my image collection that shows Ray sitting in front of a cabin-like building in the same clothing...making me assume the photo you see here and the other one were taken at the same time. The single was a Top-50 pop hit here in America early in 1971 but overseas it became something of a monster hit...although it was, as most novelty songs eventually become, polarizing. The single had it's greatest success in the United Kingdom where it reached the Top-5 on the music charts over there. It reached the Top-20 in other countries, too. The single wasn't part of any album when it was would later be placed on a re-issued Greatest Hits collection in the mid '70s. It's anyone's guess why most of the picture sleeves that accompanied the single used the same kind of backdrop but the same couldn't be said for the image below...

This picture sleeve features Ray as he appeared in 1970...I assume the picture was lifted from one of his performances on his own summer show or any number of appearances on Andy Williams' program. In this release, as you can see, there's pen and ink drawings of Bridget and her backup group. Note how the group is dressed which is a visual reference to the hippie culture of the day. The song itself is all about a go-go dancer which immediately dates the song to the late '60s/early '70s era...but material that's dated doesn't necessarily mean that it's no longer entertaining or interesting especially when Ray puts a lot of creative energy into his recordings. Aside from Bridget and her group, there's also vocal appearances by the emcee and a demented fan who attempts to come up on the stage. Based upon the fan's demeanor and seemingly limited I.Q. it's a possibility that the fan's under the influence of something although that aspect is never explored. The first time I heard the song was on a CD from 1990 called His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits. The CD came into my possession at some point in the mid '90s and the song's been a favorite of mine ever since.

Ray joined Curb Records in 1990 and his first studio album for the label was Lend Me Your Ears. Obviously the title has a double-meaning. First off is the obvious...the tie-in with the Julius Caesar play and the often quoted "lend me your ears..." phrase. Secondly the CD's title can also be seen as a request to music buyers in 1990 to give this album a listen. I remember when this particular collection was released...Ray appeared on various programs on The Nashville Network promoting it and the release of two music videos: "Sittin' Up With the Dead" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night". These were his third and fourth music videos...already having filmed "Surfin' U.S.S.R." in 1988 and "Santa Claus Is Watching You" in 1985. His take on "Help Me Make It Through the Night" was along the lines of Spike Jones and it's a music video that's one of his more wildest in terms of sight gags and quick edits. The 1990 collection also features "Barbeque", "This Ain't Exactly What I Had In Mind", "Cletus McHicks and His Band from the Sticks", and others.

December 24, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 5...

Merry Christmas Eve...

A glance at You Tube this morning shows that the "Obama Budget Plan" video has obtained a million on-line views!! The total number of views, so far, is 1,000,330. This accomplishment allows Ray Stevens to add another million video to his list:

1. Come to the U.S.A: 5,730,861

2. We The People: 4,615,758

3. Mississippi Squirrel Revival: 1,672,281

4. The Streak: 1,493,209

5. Osama Yo' Mama: 1,219,562

6. Obama Budget Plan: 1,000,330

Continuing with The 12 Rays of Christmas we have 5 additional images. In my previous blog entry I posted 3 images. There will be 4 more images I'll be posting in my next blog entry on Christmas Day.

One of the confusing things for a lot of Ray Stevens music buyers is the various compilation releases that have been put on the market. Ray has no control over the release of compilation albums...the recordings are technically owned by whichever label Ray recorded them for. Potential confusion almost always arises when referring to the Collector's Series because of the two separate releases with the same title but slightly different track list and album art. This particular release, from 1987, contains 8 tracks that Ray recorded during his RCA years (1980-1982). The confusion arises due to the fact that two years earlier, in 1985, RCA released a compilation also titled Collector's Series. The original release contains the 1981 hit "One More Last Chance" but in the 1987 re-issue that song is replaced with the 1980 novelty song, "Put It In Your Ear".

The 1987 compilation features the following songs:

1. Shriner's Convention; 1980
2. You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me; 1980
3. Country Boy, Country Club Girl; 1982
4. Where The Sun Don't Shine; 1982
5. The Dooright Family; 1980
6. Let's Do It Right This Time; 1981
7. Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love; 1982
8. Put It In Your Ear; 1980

What can I say about Hum It that I hadn't said already? This album cover is another favorite of mine...showing Ray as Whistler's Mother. The collection comes from 1997 and it features 10 songs...two of the songs would become music videos: "Virgil and the Moonshot" and "Too Drunk To Fish". This is the first and only album cover from Ray that features him dressed as a woman. Whistler's "son", Ray as a referee, is seen in the picture, too. When this CD was released a lot of people thought Ray was dressed up as Norman Bates' mother until he explained the concept of the painting, known as Whistler's Mother, and the comical idea of the mother "tired" of whistling and how she prefers humming much better. The album features a duet with J.D. Sumner on "Mama Sang Bass", a parody of the Johnny Cash hit "Daddy Sang Bass". Ray and J.D. performed the song together on television during a CD promo appearance. For his part, J.D. wore a wig. This CD features the following:

1. R.V.
2. I'll Be In Atlanta
3. Virgil and the Moonshot
4. She Loves Elvis Better Than Me
5. Sunday Morning
6. Too Drunk To Fish
7. Mama Sang Bass
8. My Neighbor
9. It Ain't Over Till It's Over
10. How Much Does It Cost To Fly To Albuquerque?

One of the most obscure studio albums from Ray Stevens is most certainly, Me. This album, from 1983, is a stand-out amongst the more dedicated fans for it represents one of the last albums where 95% of the material come from the pen of Ray Stevens...and it would be his last studio album filled entirely with non-comical songs for the next 20 plus years. In fact, the next studio album from Ray to feature only non-comical recordings wouldn't arrive until 2004 with the release of Thank You on his own label, Clyde Records. Me features 10 songs...with only one single, "My Dad", reaching the country charts. The single reached the charts in early 1984 but ironically it wasn't written by Ray. A songwriter/comic named Dale Gonyea wrote "My Dad". Those who pay attention to songwriters will recognize Gonyea as the writer of another Ray Stevens hit, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". There were quite a few songs from this album that Ray re-recorded this year for his Bozo's Back Again CD. I happen to think the album cover for Me is neat. On the back of the album there's a shot of a painter's work-table with accessories laying around near an unfinished portrait. I love the album and some of the songs include: "My Dad", "Game Show Love", "Love Will Beat Your Brains Out", "Mary Lou Nights", "Me", "Special Anniversary"...there's also a duet that Ray sings with his daughter, Suzie Ragsdale, "Yolanda".

When I first seen this image nearly 15 years ago while looking through on-line sites it instantly became a favorite of mine. This is the picture sleeve that accompanied "Santa Claus Is Watching You", the 1985 version that Ray recorded for MCA. The song was made into a music video and for much of the '80s and half of the '90s it was an annual staple on various music video television channels. A couple of years ago, or perhaps last Christmas, I posted this image in a smaller size and posted a picture of myself next to it. In my picture I'm wearing a Santa Claus hat and I'm also peeking around a tree. This image appeared in magazines around Christmas time, too. "Santa Claus Is Watching You" is a very funny song in my opinion...but the song's history goes back to the early '60s. Released originally as a children's novelty song in 1962 the original "Santa Claus Is Watching You" sometimes pops up on compilation releases that specialize in the Oldies format. The original is cute and entertaining but the 1985 version, with almost entirely different lyrics and emphasis, is my favorite. This 1985 version was the final song on his comedy album that year, I Have Returned. The b-side of the single is "Armchair Quarterback".

As most readers of this blog are well aware this is one of my favorite albums from Ray and the picture is worthy of inclusion in this pictorial series. One More Last Chance, from 1981, was released during the height of the Urban Cowboy era in country music. Almost everyone in country music, male and female, were wearing cowboy hats or wearing western attire. Some of the artists looked natural in the clothing while others, who shall go nameless, didn't look as natural. Some of the artists that debuted in country music during this trend had enormous hit songs but unfortunately once the trend/fad was over a lot of those artists also vanished. Some acts, like George Strait and Reba McEntire, gained their initial fame during this period but they also were a few of the lucky ones that were able to continue their successes well beyond the Urban Cowboy fad. Ray dressed up in western attire and wore a cowboy hat on and off during this period. On the back of this album cover Ray is shown wearing the cowboy hat and wearing casual clothing. This particular album is ballad heavy...features a lot of steel guitar, too, on several of the songs. One of the most inventive is his take on "Pretend", the old pop hit for Nat King Cole. The title track features a glorious blend of steel guitar and electric guitar. "Night Games", the album's closer, was a hit single for Ray late in 1980. It's a story tailor made for the times: it takes place inside a bar...providing the perfect wrap-up for an album from this period in country music.

December 23, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 4...

As we draw closer to Christmas it inspires me to do a pictorial event that I call The 12 Rays of Christmas. Simply put it's 12 images of Ray Stevens taken from various points in time...most of the imagery, of course, will be from albums but a couple aren't. This particular image is the flip side of He Thinks He's Ray Stevens. Several of Ray's early albums for MCA featured hilarious pictures on the back and this one's no exception. This particular album reached the Top-10 on the Country Album chart early in 1985 and it would go on to sell more than a million copies. The album was released in the latter half of 1984 but it didn't start to race up the charts until the release of the second single, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", in early 1985. The squirrel single reached the country Top-20 upon it's release in January 1985. You might call it an unexpected hit because, as mentioned, it wasn't the first release. The album's first song, "I'm Kissin' You Goodbye", was actually the first single late in 1984. Then came "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and this was followed by "It's Me Again, Margaret".

The picture sleeve that accompanied the song, "Moonlight Special", in hindsight looks out of place given the fact that the image of Ray is rather calm, reflective, and serious...a complete opposite of the song. The single's b-side is "Just So Proud To Be Here". I have no idea if the song's title was inspired by the famed Minnie Pearl catch-phrase but I often assume it is given that Ray was one of Minnie's friends and for a long time a neighbor of his. This image also appeared on an issue of Cashbox magazine that I own plus it appears inside the liner notes of the 1997 Rhino CD, The Very Best of Ray Stevens. "Moonlight Special" is Ray's wild take on The Midnight Special television program complete with a Wolfman Jack parody called Sheep Dog. Three acts are spoofed: Gladys Knight and the Pips, Alice Cooper, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The song is lengthy...and a lot of it's length may have halted it's airplay potential. It's still one of the most hilarious songs he's ever recorded with funny impressions of the three rock acts I mentioned.

As of December 23rd this is the current album from Ray Stevens. Now, of course, he's released another CD called Bozo's Back Again but that is a collection of songs that features re-recorded material. The purpose of that CD was to bring back songs from the 1980's that he recorded that the public at large, for whatever reason, weren't aware of the first time around. A lot of the songs on that collection were love ballads. Spirit of '76, meanwhile, is a collection of songs in a political vein. The picture is a send-up of the portrait...also known as Spirit of '76. This particular CD features the following: "Obama Budget Plan", "God Save Arizona", "Mr. President - Mr. President", and "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". As we head into January 2012 a lot of focus will be on the upcoming collection of novelty songs that Ray is to release. In recent interviews he's commented that the collection will be released in January...if this continues to be the actual release month and there are no delays I won't expect a lot of attention to be placed on Spirit of '76 until later in the year...but that's just my theory. This concludes the first 3 pictorials in The 12 Rays of Christmas. The rest of the imagery will be forthcoming...meanwhile...

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/20: 401,837
12/23: 409,415

Obama Budget Plan:
12/20: 979,959
12/23: 997,322

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/20: 183,963
12/23: 190,472

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/20: 211,430
12/23: 223,472

As you can see, the "Obama Budget Plan" video certainly has the momentum to reach the 1,000,000 plateau. It would be great if the video obtained that level on Christmas Day...but even if it reaches the million level later today or tomorrow it'll still be something to celebrate.

December 19, 2011

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 30...

Here's a great treat...Ray Stevens, Boots Randolph, and Chet Atkins perform a familiar instrumental on Nashville Now in 1993. Ralph Emery hosts the show. The upload came along on December 16th but it wasn't showing up in the search results for 'Ray Stevens' until today and therefore I was unaware of the video's existence.

As far as The Nashville Network goes, 1993 was the channel's 10th anniversary. It would also be the 10th and final season of Nashville Now. The show would be replaced with Music City Tonight and feature the same format but with different hosts: Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase. This series ran through 1996 before it, too, was replaced with Prime Time Country. That particular series was first hosted by actor Tom Wopat and later, Gary Chapman. This series would remain on the air until The Nashville Network ended it's affiliation with country music in 1999. In the meantime, back in 1995, Ralph Emery returned to The Nashville Network to host a morning talk-show from Opryland. This series, which started in the mornings, shifted to the early evenings, before it was canceled in 1996.

Crook and Chase, in the meantime, had started a syndicated television program which ran for a couple of years. Upon the cancellation of Ralph's talk-show he would return a third time to host a series of hour long interviews for a show called On The Record. Ralph, by this time, had become the author of a string of successful books about country music and his experiences with the industry and the artists. Ray Stevens made appearances on Music City Tonight, Ralph's daytime and evening shows, and Prime Time Country but didn't appear in the On The Record series. A large reason for this is, probably, due to Ray not having an autobiography available.

I've posted this before but it's worth additional viewings. This clip comes from 1990 during an All-Star Salute to Ralph Emery. The video starts with a performance from Randy Travis and later we have Ray Stevens performing a song he wrote just for the event, "Ralph, You Have Embarrassed Us All". Ray is joined by Roy Clark, Kathy Mattea, and Faron Young.

December 18, 2011

Ray Stevens: Internet Video Hits, Part 2...

Uploaded onto You Tube on March 11, 2010 "Caribou Barbie", a video salute to Sarah Palin, is nearing half a million on-line views. The current number of views is 469,247. If you click on the video stats it'll give a break down of several on-line sites that have embedded the video. More than 28,000 people watched the video at Ray's web-site. More than 44,000 people discovered the video from a referral. A referral, for those who don't know, are the small thumbnail images of music videos that pop up on the video screen whenever the music video you're watching comes to an end. At the conclusion of "Throw the Bums Out!" there are video referrals and according to the statistics more than 44,000 people clicked "Caribou Barbie" after watching "Throw the Bums Out!". However, the greatest referral video is "Come to the U.S.A.". Statistics show that more than 60,000 people clicked "Caribou Barbie" when they finished watching "Come to the U.S.A.". "Caribou Barbie" is 30,753 on-line views away from an exact 500,000. An actress/impersonator named Lori Stegner portrays Sarah Palin in the "Caribou Barbie" music video.

The music video is cute and filled with sight gags as you can tell. The video's release, on March 11th 2010, created a stir among those who viewed it on You Tube. 11 days later Ray uploaded another music video, "Throw the Bums Out!", on March 22. Since that particular video/song had a much more timely connection to the mid-term elections that year it overshadowed the "Caribou Barbie" video considerably. "Throw the Bums Out!" currently has 838,695 on-line views...compared to 469,247. I typically compare and contrast these two videos because of their release dates: March 11th and March 22nd 2010.

Those who want to watch 10 of Ray's political music videos on one DVD can purchase Internet Video Hits at his web-store. On the back of the DVD there are small thumbnail images taken from the various music videos. There is also a message from Ray commenting on the DVD's release and why he wanted to offer the music videos on DVD even though they're on You Tube, too.

Ray Stevens and Christmas Comedy...

Christmas Day is just 1 week away...and coincidentally I came across a particular comment today. The comment centered around "Santa Claus Is Watching You". The comment wasn't very flattering and we'll leave it at that. As usual I'm always baffled why some people get all worked up and annoyed over comedy songs...but that's a discussion for another day. Nevertheless Ray Stevens is primarily known for his comical recordings and anyone who doesn't "get" why Ray would do a Christmas CD of comedy songs just doesn't "get" Ray Stevens...period!

In his career he's recorded just two Christmas CD's and a couple of holiday themed single releases. A lot of fans probably don't know that Ray, in 1960, released an instrumental version of "White Christmas". It was backed with another instrumental called "Happy Blue Year". The single was released on the NRC label. Then, in 1962, Mercury released the original version of "Santa Claus Is Watching You" in which the lyrics were aimed at children. That version is whimsical and cute but as many fans know Ray re-wrote much of the song and re-released it in 1985 while with MCA...along with a music video (his first).

However, it wouldn't be until 1997 that Ray released an actual album of Christmas songs: Christmas Through a Different Window. It would be joined by a companion piece in 2009: Ray Stevens Christmas. The 2009 release features non-comical Christmas songs.


You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/16/11: 389,507
12/18/11: 394,781

Obama Budget Plan:
12/16/11: 966,505
12/18/11: 974,302

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/16/11: 177,305
12/18/11: 180,214

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/16/11: 198,480
12/18/11: 203,343

On the horizon for Ray Stevens is the long-awaited Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. In an interview Ray gave several weeks ago he mentioned that the collection will be released at some point in January 2012.

In late February of 2012 Ray will be in Florida for four concerts.

February 21: Peabody Auditorium (Daytona Beach)

February 22: The Lakeland Center (Lakeland, Florida)**

February 23: The King Center (Melbourne, Florida)

Each venue has their own web-page and all the information can be found there. The Lakeland Center appearance will contain 2 separate concerts. Ray will appear first at 2:30pm and again at 7:30pm. You can visit this link to read about Ray's two concerts at the Lakeland Center.

For information about the King Center appearance visit this link. I'm sure those who are able to attend these concerts will truly enjoy them!

December 16, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 3...

It's long last!! December 16th...yes, 9 more days until Christmas. Those who frequent Ray Stevens web-store already know that items ordered after December 20th will not be shipped out until the first of the year so for those who want to get anything and have it arrive within this calendar year ought to visit the store starting today through December 20th. Here's the store's link.

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/13/11: 376,234
12/16/11: 389,507

Obama Budget Plan:
12/13/11: 954,747
12/16/11: 966,505

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/13/11: 172,224
12/16/11: 177,305

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/13/11: 189,234
12/16/11: 198,480

The top two music videos increased more than 10,000 on-line views during the last 3 days. "Santa Claus Is Watching You" obtained little more than 9,000 views during the same time period. "Nightmare Before Christmas" obtained a little more than 5,000 on-line views.

December 15, 2011

Ray Stevens sings about Atlanta, Georgia...

It's a stormy, windy, mid 50 degree morning...yes, mid 50's and it's December 15th! We'll only have a couple more days of this abnormal weather before it starts to get cold again.

I heard on the radio this morning that today marks the 72nd anniversary of Gone With the Wind. The radio host said that the movie premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. That, of course, had me thinking of the Ray Stevens song that incorporates character names and terminology from the movie. The song, "I'll Be In Atlanta", was recorded by Ray in 1997 for his Hum It comedy CD. It's one of my favorite songs on the CD and it has a bouncy sing-a-long feel to it. Interested readers of this blog page can click here and be taken to the product page at Amazon where you can purchase an Mp3 of "I'll Be In Atlanta". I saw him sing this song just once on a music program that aired on The Nashville Network. I think the show was Prime Time Country or it may have been Music City Tonight.

It isn't available on You Tube...yet...but in 1995 Ray did a music video for "I Used To Be Crazy". This song originally came along in 1989 on the Beside Myself album but Ray made a music video of it in 1995 for use in his direct-to-video movie, Get Serious! Toward the end of "I Used To Be Crazy" Ray does an impression of Prissy, quoting the line that the character in Gone With the Wind is noted for. I should note that the music video contains a lot of additional one-liners during the song's fade out which aren't included in the 1989 original.

December 14, 2011

Ray Stevens: Studio Albums

1. 1,837 Seconds of Humor; 1962 Mercury Records
2. This Is Ray Stevens; 1963 Mercury Records
3. Even Stevens; 1968 Monument Records
4. Gitarzan; 1969 Monument Records
5. Have a Little Talk With Myself; 1969 Monument Records
6. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970 Barnaby Records
7. Unreal; 1970 Barnaby Records
8. Turn Your Radio On; 1972 Barnaby Records
9. Nashville; 1973 Barnaby Records
10. Losin' Streak; 1973 Barnaby Records
11. Boogity-Boogity; 1974 Barnaby Records
12. Misty; 1975 Barnaby Records
13. Just For The Record; 1976 Warner Brothers
14. Feel the Music; 1977 Warner Brothers
15. There Is Something On Your Mind; 1978 Warner Brothers
16. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978 Warner Brothers
17. The Feeling's Not Right Again; 1979 Warner Brothers**
18. Shriner's Convention; 1980 RCA Records
19. One More Last Chance; 1981 RCA Records
20. Don't Laugh Now; 1982 RCA Records
21. Me; 1983 Mercury Records
22. He Thinks He's Ray Stevens; 1984 MCA Records
23. I Have Returned; 1985 MCA Records
24. Surely You Joust; 1986 MCA Records
25. Crackin' Up; 1987 MCA Records
26. I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like; 1988 MCA Records
27. Beside Myself; 1989 MCA Records
28. Lend Me Your Ears; 1990 Curb/Capitol
29. #1 With a Bullet; 1991 Curb/Capitol
30. Classic Ray Stevens; 1993 Curb Records
31. Hum It; 1997 MCA Records
32. Christmas Through a Different Window; 1997 MCA Records
33. Ear Candy; 2000 Clyde Records
34. Osama Yo' Mama; 2002 Curb Records*
35. Thank You; 2004 Clyde Records
36. New Orleans Moon; 2007 Clyde Records
37. Hurricane; 2008 Clyde Records
38. Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What???; 2008 Clyde Records
39. One For the Road; 2009 Clyde Records
40. Ray Stevens Christmas; 2009 Clyde Records
41. We The People; 2010 Clyde Records
42. Spirit of '76; 2011 Clyde Records
43. Bozo's Back Again; 2011 Clyde Records***

**- This 1979 album featured just one new song, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", with the rest of the album previously recorded material from Ray's other Warner Brothers albums. I placed it in the studio album category with the asterisk because it features that one new single, which reached the Adult-Contemporary Top-20.

*- This 2002 album features three newly recorded songs, "Osama Yo' Mama", "United We Stand", and "Freudian Slip" with the rest of the material lifted from his 2000 album, Ear Candy.

***- This 2011 CD features re-recordings of songs that Ray recorded mostly in the early '80s which have long been out of print. Among the highlights is his re-recording of "Just For the Hell Of It" which originally appeared on the Cannonball Run movie starring Burt Reynolds.

In the '90s Ray's main output were music video collections...first on VHS home video and later on DVD. He continued to issue music video collections on DVD later on and currently he releases music videos on You Tube.

December 13, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 2...

Ray Stevens wrote a new commentary/opinion piece yesterday...he writes about Obama and how fundamentally sound the country actually is and that it isn't necessary for the President to thirst for "fundamental change". It's another great commentary and you can read it for yourselves by clicking the following link.

I'll only be keeping up with three of the following four music videos for several more days. I'll continue to periodically make mention of his current music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President, though. As you can tell, two of the videos are Christmas themed and so there's only a week or so before the activity for those videos begins to decline again. The "Obama Budget Plan" is nearing 1,000,000 on-line's anyone's guess when the video will reach a million. It would be great if the video reaches a million on-line views on Christmas Day but considering that Christmas is just 12 days from now it would mean that more than 45,000 views would have to be accumulated in just 12 days time. Anything's possible, though...but whenever the day comes that the video surpasses a million views I'll write about it on here.

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/11/2011: 367,462
12/13/2011: 376,234

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/11/2011: 183,592
12/13/2011: 189,234

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/11/2011: 169,789
12/13/2011: 172,224

Obama Budget Plan:
12/11/2011: 935,000+
12/13/2011: 954,747

"Santa Claus Is Watching You" obtained more than 5,000 views in 2 days time. "Mr. President - Mr. President" obtained almost 10,000 views over the last 2 days. The biggest jump in numbers, though, is "Obama Budget Plan" which saw the video's on-line view total jump from a little more than 935,000 views on December 11th to nearly 955,000 views increase of nearly 20,000 in 2 days. If it would happen to have another increase in views of that magnitude 2 days from now the video would then be in the 975,000 range and certainly possible to reach a million views, if not on Christmas, surely by the end of 2011.

December 11, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 7...

Ray Stevens is a great entertainer...and I can't wait to hear his upcoming novelty song collection set for release in January!! The collection will feature 9 CD's and an accompanying booklet. I was hoping a pre-order would become available but at the moment no such luck. I have no idea if this collection will be sold only at Ray's web-store or if it'll also become available on Amazon and other places. Whatever the case once it becomes available for purchase I'll send off for it and then it'll probably take me several days to digest everything. 9 CD's is A LOT OF MUSIC!! In the meantime let's look at the statistics of a few of Ray's music videos...

"Mr. President - Mr. President" at a brief glance:

View total on 12/4/2011: 358,402
View total on 12/11/2011: 367,462

"Santa Claus Is Watching You" at a brief glance:

View total on 12/1/2011: 166,250
View total on 12/11/2011: 183,592

"Nightmare Before Christmas" at a brief glance:

View total on 12/1/2011: 158,237
View total on 12/11/2011: 169,789

As you can tell, the current video is approaching 370,000 on-line views. Now, with it being the Christmas season it shouldn't come as no surprise that his two seasonal music videos are performing strongly on-line. "Santa Claus is Watching You" increases by more than 17,000 while "Nightmare Before Christmas" has an increase of more than 11,000 views in a span of 10 days.

The "Obama Budget Plan" video, which some have been nick-naming 'Obama Money', has more than 935,000 on-line views.

A few days ago a new upload appeared on You Tube featuring a sing-a-long performance from The Andy Williams Show. The musical number features Andy, Ray, Dusty Springfield, and the Osmonds. As far as audio goes it's excellent to hear but it's too bad the visuals aren't in the same league. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not too horrific visually but it's obviously not the clip that was broadcast on TV (you can tell that by the time clock that runs on the bottom of the screen).

According to the uploader the episode this performance originated from aired in 1969, the year Ray became a recurring performer on Andy's program...

December 4, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 6...

It's The Best of Ray Stevens...a release from Mercury Records in 1970 spotlighting 11 songs recorded by Ray between the years of 1961 and 1963. The ironic aspect of the collection is most of the songs made up Ray's 1963 album, This Is Ray Stevens. In hindsight Mercury should have re-released the 1962 and 1963 albums in 1970 but that wasn't on the agenda back then. 1970 was a banner year in Ray's career as he hit #1 on the pop chart for the first time...and he hosted a TV show in the summer...and the song that went #1 would end up winning a Grammy in early 1971 in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category. Considering all that went on in 1970 for Ray Stevens I assume Mercury was eager to re-introduce earlier songs from Ray right at the time "Ahab the Arab" was the biggest hit of his career. Another irony about this 1970 release is you get a live performance of "Ahab the Arab" complete with an introduction by country DJ Ralph you don't actually get the hit recording of the song. I know this sort of thing irks some people but if you're as big a fan of Ray Stevens as I am you already have plenty of copies of the hit recording of "Ahab the Arab" elsewhere that it doesn't matter that an obscure version is featured on this particular collection.

This cassette version, released in 1987, cuts off the top row of illustrations that appear on the vinyl release. What you get with the cassette are 6 illustrations whereas on the vinyl copy the album cover has 4 more illustrations that appear behind the album's title. The same 11 songs on the vinyl album are here on the cassette release, though. I've often remarked on this blog that this particular collection is where I first heard the much younger Ray Stevens. Keep in mind that when this release became a part of my collection I was still unaware of the vast amount of recordings that Ray did...I was only familiar with the handful of cassette tapes that my grandparent's owned and that I'd listen to. I was still uninformed and in the process of discovering a lot about Ray during that time period. There's still a rush of excitement, even now, if I hear a song that Ray either wrote, produced, or arranged for someone else...and this holds true if I come across vintage pictures of him or find video of him that I've never seen before. The excitement's still there. I'd like to know who came up with the idea that you can't be a fan/supporter of a singer for years/decades. I'd like to know so I can tell him or her that they're wrong.

1. Ahab the Arab
2. Funny Man
3. Harry the Hairy Ape
4. It's Been So Long
5. Speed Ball
6. Santa Claus Is Watching You
7. Butch Babarian
8. Loved and Lost
9. The Rock and Roll Show
10. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills
11. Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 15...

It's an early Sunday morning...December 4, 2011...and on a personal note I reached the age of 35 two days ago on December 2nd. It dawned on me a couple of hours ago that when I started this fan-created blog spotlighting the talented Ray Stevens I was 31 going on 32. It's been a fast 3 years...a lot of it breezing by and aided primarily by the activity going on in Ray's career. When I started this blog in 2008 Ray didn't have a You Tube page...he wasn't making music videos for on-line viewing...and he wasn't affiliated with any political movement. Today, of course, Ray has a highly viewed You Tube page, releases music videos on You Tube every 4 or 5 months, and is affiliated with the conservative political group collectively known as the Tea Party. I'm thrilled with all of the awareness his music videos have been getting and love all the exposure he's been getting by appearing on politically oriented TV and radio programs.

The latest music video from Ray, Mr. President - Mr. President, is approaching 360,000 on-line views. At the moment it's at 358,402. This is a pick up of more than 8,000 views in less than a week. It should vault past the 360,000 mark in a matter of days...and if it does it'll be another consecutive week of 10,000+ on-line views. Ironically, though, his previous music video continues to garner even higher on-line views. I call it ironic because the video's been available since April 2011 and it's still having strong numbers. The video I refer to is the "Obama Budget Plan" and at the moment it has 920,600 on-line views. When I last checked the numbers for that video it had 905,670. That means an increase of 14,930 on-line views. The economy serves as a backdrop for the music video and without fail there always seems to be bad economic news coming in daily...going hand-in-hand with what the music video shines a comedic spotlight on.

December 1, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus...

One of the classic music videos from Ray Stevens is "Santa Claus Is Watching You". The video, Ray's first, dates back to 1985 and at one time was a staple of The Nashville Network's various music video programs during the holiday season. I remember seeing the video multiple times every year in December for a number of years. The song itself dates back to the early '60s when Ray originally released it as a pop single. It reached the Top-50 at the time. That particular recording, though, was aimed at children. Ray recorded the original for Mercury Records and it appears often in various compilation CD's issued around this time of the year.

The version featured in the music video below, as mentioned, comes from 1985 and it features a completely different music arrangement as well as lyrical emphasis. This time around the story is much more in line with a much more older audience as Ray sings about faithfulness and adultery...warning the woman that she better treat him right and be faithful because Santa's watching. The video contains a bit of irony toward the end as the wife ultimately is shown being unfaithful on the most joyous of all holidays.

As mentioned, the music video appeared annually on The Nashville Network for nearly 10 years. It appears on Ray's ground-breaking 1992 home video, Comedy Video Classics, too. In July 2009 the by then 24 year old music video made it's You Tube debut and since that time it's gotten 166,250 on-line views. It being a holiday video it typically only sees action during this time of the year. If you hadn't seen it by all means click the arrow and watch!

The music video below is of a more recent was uploaded onto You Tube in November 2010 and has 158,237 on-line views so far. It's titled "Nightmare Before Christmas" and it's a very funny story about political correctness and all it's silliness. The video was recently featured on Internet Video Hits, a collection of Ray's You Tube music videos released on DVD. That particular release contains 9 of Ray's political You Tube music videos (those released since December 2009) plus the Christmas music video below...